1. Understading Our Past

Prehistory – 300 B.C.
• Learn how scholars study the historical past.
• Find out how anthropologists investigate the period of
• Understand how discoveries in Africa and beyond have
influenced anthropologists’ views about early humans
and their ancestors.
• By about 5,000 years ago, groups of people in different
parts of the world had begun to keep written records.
• History – The period after the invention and use of writing.
• Prehistory – The period before the invention and use of
• Historians are scholars
who study and write
about the historical past.
• Historians often learn
details of the past from
• Objects made by humans,
such as clothing, coins,
artwork and tombstones.
• Historians rely even more
on written evidence, such
as letters or tax records.
• Like a detective, historian must evaluate all evidence to
determine if it is reliable.
• They then interpret the evidence, or examine what it
• Often, a historian’s goal is to determine the causes of a
certain development or event, such as a war or an
economic collapse.
• By explaining why things occurred in the past, historians
can help us understand what happens today and what
may happen in the future.
• About 150 years ago,
scholars began
studying the period of
• They hoped to learn
about the origins and
development of people
and their societies.
• This field of Study is
known as Anthropology
• Modern Anthropologists specialize in certain areas of
their field.
• For example: Some study the bones of our ancestors to
understand physical traits. Others focus on the characteristics
of human cultures.
• Culture refers to the way of life of a society.
• This includes its beliefs, values, and practices.
• Culture is handed down from one generation to the next
through learning and experience.
• Within the field of anthropology, a specialized branch
exists called archeology.
• Archeology is the study of past people and cultures
through their materials remains.
• These remains include buildings and artifacts such as tools,
weapons, pottery, clothing, and jewelry.
• Archeologists find and analyze artifacts to learn about life
during the prehistory as well as historical times.
• This help them draw conclusions about the beliefs, values and
activities of our ancestors.
• Since archaeologists make new discoveries frequently, at
times they must revise their theories in light of the new
• Finding ancient artifacts can be difficult, but
archaeologists have devised many useful means of doing
• In the 1800s and early 1900s, archaeologists would pick a
likely place, called a site, and begin digging.
• The further down the dug often means the older the artifacts.
• Once archaeologists have found artifacts, they analyze
• One technique is to mark the location of each type of artifacts
found in a map site.
• After studying the map archaeologists may be able to tell what
activities people took part in at different locations within the
• To find out how old the artifacts are:
• Geologists can help by determining the age of rocks located
near the site.
• Carbon dating
• Which of the following is not an example of an artifact?
• Which of the following is not an example of an artifact?
• What do historians look at to learn how people lived in
the past?
They focus on the environments in which early people lived.
They primarily look at written records.
They primarily dig for artifacts.
They primarily look at landforms.
• What do historians look at to learn how people lived in
the past?
They focus on the environments in which early people lived.
They primarily look at written records.
They primarily dig for artifacts.
They primarily look at landforms.
• Prehistoric groups did not have cities, countries,
organized governments, or complex inventions, so clues
about them were hard to find.
• Archaeologists in East Africa started uncovering ancient
footprints, bones, and tools.
• With these first discoveries, scholars began to form picture of
life during prehistory.
• In the 1930s, anthropologists Mary Leakey and Louis
Leakey started searching for clues to the human past in a
deep canyon in Tanzania called Olduvai Gorge.
• Geologists have dated the bottom layers of Olduvai Gorge
to be about 1.7 to 2.1 million year.
• As the Leakeys searched the sides of the gorge, they
found very ancient tools chopped from stone.
• These tools looked simple, with jagged edges and rough
surfaces, showed that whoever made them had learned to
develop technologist to help them survive.
• Technology refers to the skills and tools people use to meet their basic
needs and wants.
• More recent stone tools
proved more sophisticated
– both smooth and
• In 1959, after more than two decades of searching. Mary
Leakey found a skull embedded in ancient rock at Olduvai
• After careful testing, the Leakeys concluded that the skull
belonged to an early hominid.
• Hominids is a group that include humans and their closest
• All walk upright on two feet.
• Humans are the only hominids that live today.
• Additional evidence of early hominids was found in 1974
by anthropologist Donald Johnson in Ethiopia
• Johnson found many pieces of a single hominid skeleton,
which was dated to at least 3 million years ago.
• For the first time, archaeologists had enough of one skeleton to
piece together and really look at an early hominid.
• Johnson named his historic find “Lucy” after a Beatles’ song.
• Studying Lucy’s skeleton, Johnson could see that she was
an upright walker who was bout 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall.
• Anthropologists discovered and studied numerous
remains and artifacts of hominids.
• From this work, they have established that a number of
different groups of hominids lived over the course of
several million years.
• The earliest group of hominids
• Lucy is a member of this group.
• All of the Australopithecines lived in Africa.
• Lived there as early as 7 million years ago.
• Emerged about 2 million years ago.
• Means “handy man.” – because archaeologists thought
they were the first hominids to make stone tools.
• Since the discovery of Homo Habilis, archaeologists have
uncovered even older tools – 2.6 million years in age – but
have not determined which hominids created them.
• Homo Habilis used these tools for purposes such as cutting,
scraping, chopping, or sawing plants, animals and wood.
• Another group that also appeared around 2 million years ago.
• Means “Upright man” because their skeletons show that they
were fully upright walkers.
• They were notable for having larger brains and bones and
smaller teeth than other hominids.
• They also showed a greater range of capabilities.
• For example they were the first hominids to learn how to use fire.
• Pointed a new form of stone tools, called hand ax - which used for
digging, shattering stone or bone, and boring holes into hard
• Homo erectus remains have been found in Asia and Europe –
might be the first group to migrate out of Africa.
• Scientists think that between 250,000 and 100,000 hears
ago, Homo erectus disappeared and a new group of
hominids emerged – Called Homo Sapiens, the group
which modern humans belong.
• There is some dispute over where Homo Sapiens first
• “Out of Africa” theory – Homo Sapiens first lived in African
and then migrated into the rest of the world.
• Home Erectus developed into Homo Sapiens around the same
time in different parts of the world.
• Two groups of Homo Sapiens arose
• Neanderthals
• Earliest Modern humans
• Early modern humans eventually spread all over the
world, while Neanderthals lived mostly in
Europe and Western Asia sometime
between 50,000 and 30,000 years ago.
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv3I22jsUEw

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